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Reminiscences of Dr. Channing by Mrs. Child, written after his death and published in his memoirs.

I shall always recollect the first time I ever saw Dr. Canning in private. It was immediately after I published my “Appeal in favor of that class of Americans called Africans,” in 1833. A publication taking broad anti-slavery ground was then a rarity. Indeed, that was the first book in the United States of that character; and it naturally produced a sensation disproportioned to its merits. I sent a copy to Dr. Channing, and a few days after he came to see me at Cottage Place, a mile and a half from his residence on Mt. Vernon Street. It was a very bright sunny day; but he carried his cloak on his arm for fear of changes in temperature, and he seemed fatigued with the long walk. He stayed nearly three hours, during which time we held a most interesting conversation on the general interests of humanity, and on slavery in particular. He told me something of his experience in the West Indies, and said the painful impression made by the sight of slavery had never left his mind. He expressed great joy at the publication of the “Appeal,” and added, “The reading of it has aroused my conscience to the query whether I ought to remain silent on the subject.” He urged me never to desert the cause through evil report or good report. In some respects he thought I went too far. He then entertained the idea, which he afterwards discarded, that slavery existed in a milder form in the United States than elsewhere. I was fresh from the bloody records of our own legislation, and was somewhat vehement in my opposition to this statement, and he sought to moderate my zeal with those calm, wise words which none spoke so well as he. [49]

We afterwards had many interviews. He often sent for me when I was in Boston, and always urged me to come and tell him of every new aspect of the anti-slavery cause. At every interview I could see that he grew bolder and stronger on the subject, while I felt that I grew wiser and more just. At first I thought him timid and even slightly time-serving, but I soon discovered that I formed this estimate merely from ignorance of his character. I learned that it was justice to all, not popularity for himself, which rendered him so cautious. He constantly grew upon my respect, until I came to regard him as the wisest as well as the gentlest apostle of humanity. I owe him thanks for helping to preserve me from the one-sidedness into which zealous reformers are apt to run. He never sought to undervalue the importance of anti-slavery, but he said many things to prevent my looking upon it as the only question interesting to humanity. My mind needed this check, and I never think of his many-sided conversations without deep gratitude. His interest in the subject constantly increased, and I never met him without being struck with the progress he had made in overcoming some difficulty which for a time troubled his sensitive conscience. I can distinctly recollect several such steps. At one time he was doubtful whether it were right to petition Congress on the subject, because such petition exasperated our Southern brethren, and, as he thought, made them more tenacious of their system. He afterward headed a petition himself. In all such cases he was held back by the conscientious fear of violating some other duty, while endeavoring to fulfil his duty to the slave. Some zealous reformers misunderstood this, and construed [50] into a love of popularity what was, in fact, but a fine sense of justice, a more universal love of his species.

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